Apple's Swift: Objective-C Without the Bad Stuff

The amount of both mainstream and tech press generated by Apple's annual World Wide Developer Conference, winding down in San Francisco today, always catches me by surprise. It shouldn't, I suppose, but everyone covers this show. I agree with the argument that Apple has earned the attention with its bleeding-edge, category-creating, market-overhauling innovations over the past couple of decades, but it's still true that somewhere around 90 percent of all PCs worldwide are running Windows. Maybe I should look at the coverage of the WWDC as further evidence of the receding relevance of the PC as a personal computing platform.

Among the many announcements at this year's show (covered thoroughly by my colleague David Ramel here), Apple CEO Tim Cook called out the new software development kit (SDK) as "the biggest release since the launch of the App Store." The new SDK comes with more than 4,000 new APIs, and a feature called "Extensibility," through which devs will be able to extend services to other applications via the App Store.

But for my money, the official introduction of the successor to Apple's Objective-C programming language was the biggest news for developers this year. Dubbed "Swift," the new language sheds the "baggage of Objective-C" to provide "an innovative new way of coding for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch," as the Web site puts it. Where Objective-C relied on defined pointers, the Swift compiler infers the variable type. But it keeps such features as well-defined namespaces, generics, and operator overloading.

Apple says the new language will be able to co-exist alongside existing Objective-C files in the same project. Swift is ready for developers now who want to kick the tires, and it will be supported with the next version of the Xcode IDE (now in beta). When OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 are released later this year, developers will be able to submit Swift-based applications to the App Store.

I'm calling this the official introduction because Swift has reportedly been in development for four years. Chris Lattner, director of Apple's Developer Tools Department, says on his personal blog that he implemented the basic language structure in 2010 off the radar. Contributions from others started coming "in earnest" in late 2011, he writes, and the language finally became a "major focus" for his tools group last year.

"The Swift language is the product of tireless effort from a team of language experts, documentation gurus, compiler optimization ninjas, and an incredibly important internal dogfooding group who provided feedback to help refine and battle-test ideas," Lattner writes. "Of course, it also greatly benefited from the experiences hard-won by many other languages in the field, drawing ideas from Objective-C, Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C#, CLU, and far too many others to list."

Of course, Swift isn't the only new (ish) addition to the programming language landscape. Under the category of emerging languages, there's Google's open-source Go and Dart; Red Hat's Ceylon; Opa; and Typesafe's open source Scala.

In fact, IDC analyst Al Hilwa believes we're living in "a golden age of programming languages."

"Computer scientists never tire of creating new languages, and this is illustrated by Apple's latest creation called Swift," Hilwa told me in an email. "There have not been too many examples of single-vendor-promoted languages achieving wide adoption. Most of the popular programming languages that have come to wide-spread use, like COBOL, FORTRAN, C, and Java, have had multi-vendor support. Objective-C was catapulted into fame by the unique disruption of Apple's iPhone, and C# was promoted by Microsoft during its pinnacle of dominance as the language for Windows apps."

Initial reactions to the language seem to suggest a promising future for Swift. As one breathless coder told me, "It's Objective-C with all the bad stuff scraped out." But Hilwa argues that the success of the language will depend largely on how hard Apple promotes it, and how well that promotion is received by the Apple appdev ecosystem.

"It helps Swift that it was designed for ease of learning, that it produces fast code, and that Apple will integrate it deeply with its tools," he said. "But, having looked at it briefly, I can say that despite its many great features, it has a 'best-of' flavor that combines many great ideas surfaced in other successful languages, like Java, JavaScript, and C#. This typically means it has a complexity that may make it easy to learn but hard to master. Still, if a single vendor can generate wide adoption of a programming language today, it is Apple, as it sits at the pinnacle of its platform dominance."

Posted by John K. Waters on 06/06/2014 at 12:32 PM0 comments

2014 Java Survey: Jenkins, Scala, JUnit, Gradle, Maven, Eclipse Among Hot Technologies for Java Devs

Would you be surprised to learn that 82.5 percent of Java developers responding to a recently conducted survey said they favor the JUnit testing framework? Or that 70 percent reported an affinity for the Jenkins CI Server? Or that 69 percent prefer Git for version control? Or that 48 percent of developers reported using the Eclipse IDE? Yeah, me neither. But those were just a few of the stats -- both expected and surprising -- assembled from the latest survey of in-the-trenches Java developers by RebelLabs, the research and content arm of Java toolmaker Zeroturnaround.

This is the fifth year the Estonia-based company, probably best known as the maker of the JRebel JVM plug-in, has delved into the state of the Java developer tools-and-tech landscape with a global survey.

The results published in the 35-plus-page report, which came out last week, were gleaned from the 2,164 software developers responding to questions about what they like, what they do, and what they're interested in. "This survey rocked," said RebelLabs head honcho Oliver White in the report's intro (and his blog). White and his crew got a "better-than-ever responses" this year, he said, and the respondents even donated to charity.

Most of what you'll find in these survey results won't blow you away, but I, for one, like to see the numbers when someone thoughtful goes to the trouble of assembling them. It's a snapshot, to be sure, but it's a crisp one.

Among the survey's more intriguing numbers: Scala was among the JVM languages generating the most interest among Java developers. In fact, 47 percent said they'd like to learn it. Gradle topped the wish list of build tools the respondents would like to learn (58 percent), though only 11 percent reported actually using it. (64 percent said they currently use Maven). And more than a third of respondents said that "getting familiar with" Java 8 was one of their highest priorities in 2015. Also, a huge majority of respondents (71 percent) reported working on Web applications, with 15 percent working on libraries or frameworks, 11 percent working on desktop apps, and on 3 percent working on mobile apps. That last number surprised me, but White explained it in the report this way: "Presumably, the majority of mobile app developers are selecting not Java ME (SE embedded), but rather Dalvik (Android) or iOS."

The cumulative answers to the survey question about which version of Java respondents are using now was edifying: Most reported using Java SE 7 (65 percent), but one in four said they are still using Java SE 6. Adoption of the newly released Java SE 8 came in at 7 percent, but the report authors saw that as surprisingly, given that only a few application servers currently support it.

Most respondents reported using Java EE (68 percent), which confirmed the authors' expectations that the surveyed group was representative of the enterprise Java development segment. Most reported using Java EE 6 (49 percent), and about a third reported using Java EE 7. And here's a surprise: 1 in 6 developers responding to this survey reported that they are still using Java EE 5.

There's lots more in this report, including some fun fact about job titles, more on JVM languages, IDE preferences, and App Server stats. The report also quotes a number of Java jocks and luminaries. My favorite is from German technology consultant Markus Eisele, who, according to his blog bio, works daily with customers and projects dealing with Enterprise level Java and infrastructures:

"Java has been called 'dead' for years. But it's vital and new language versions get adopted with the industry-typical restrained uptake. For both Java SE and Java EE, nearly 2/3 of participants [in the survey] are on the latest two releases. The faster uptake on the EE side clearly expresses how important developer productivity and ease of use are today."

The 2014 RebelLabs 5th Java Tools and Technologies Report is available for download from the RebelLabs Web site. It's worth noting, too, that RebelLabs maintains a collection of over 25 technical publications, also available online.

Posted by John K. Waters on 05/28/2014 at 10:06 AM0 comments

Appeals Court Says APIs Copyrightable in Oracle v. Google; Analysts Cite 'Chilling' Effect

A federal appeals court sided with Oracle on Friday, ruling that the 37 Java APIs at the center of the now four-year-old Oracle v. Google patent infringement lawsuit are, in fact, protected under U.S. copyright law. The appeals court overturned the 2012 ruling of Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court of Northern California, and referred the case back to that court, which will now take up the question of whether Google's use of those APIs in Android constitutes fair use.

To be clear, what the appeals court found was that the declaration code in Oracle's API packages, which Google copied verbatim, was copyrightable. (Google developed the implementation code independently, so it wasn't at issue.) As John T. Kennedy, an attorney at Dorsey & Whitney specializing in patent litigation, prosecution, and licensing, explained in an e-mail, the court found that the Oracle code had not merged with the functions performed by the code; that combinations of short code phrases, such as those used in the APIs, can be copyrightable; and the fact that the code serves a function does not preclude its copyrightability if, the as the court put it, "the author had multiple ways to express the underlying idea" at the time of creation of the code.

"Whether an alleged copier has multiple ways to perform a function was also found to be not relevant to the copyrightability of such code," Kennedy said, "but, might arise as a fair use defense. In a nutshell, since the functions performed by the Oracle APIs at the time of their creation could have been achieved by code 'written and organized in any number of ways' Oracle's code is copyrightable."

This case still has a long way to go, and Google has a chance to win a fair use argument, but the court's decision that APIs are copyrightable could have far-reaching implications for developers if it stands.  

The court's decision could have a "chilling effect on the Java community and its developers," Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady predicts. "Android has been a boon to the [Java] language," he told ADTmag, "bringing it relevance in the exploding mobile development ecosystem. Any binding decision, therefore, that might impact its viability over the longer term raises questions for developers currently focused on building mobile Java applications for Android."

That chill could spread throughout the industry, said Gartner analyst Mark Driver, icing the long-standing tolerance for clean-room implementations. "Imagine if this precedent were on the books when they first started calling the NetBIOS API," he said. "That's a standard API for developing client-server apps. We would have a very, verydifferent personal computing industry, one that is much more fragmented and nowhere near the critical mass we have today."

The court's decision could have a great impact on Java, specifically, he said, because it would mark it as clearly not open. "Anyone with a strategy around open source is going to seek a path of technology that is far removed from anything closed, and vice versa."

Forrester analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond see's no short-term impact, but expects the API decision to accelerate a transition toward other app authoring technologies on Android, "perhaps based more on HTML and JavaScript, or accelerated investment in Chrome." But if those changes do come, it's likely they won't be here for a while, he said.

Wayne Citrin, CTO of JNBridge, sees copyrightable APIs as bad for Java, which is also bad for Oracle. "Java is valuable to Oracle to the extent that it's relevant," he said. "Cutting off Google's Android/Java initiative at the knees certainly will make Java less relevant. Whatever money they make from the copyright on the APIs is outweighed by the long-term hit that they take on Java's relevance and reach."

Driver agrees: "If this decision stands, it's going to be a Pyrrhic victory for Oracle, because they're part of the industry. Ultimately, it hurts them too."

"At some point someone is going to have to sit down with the court and explain exactly how far reaching this is going to be," Driver added, "precisely how destructive it's going to be to the idea of open development and the concepts of the Internet, all the things that are driving most of the innovation that's happening today. Perhaps they'll take a step back and see that this isn't just an argument between two vendors."

But Citrin doesn't see any long-term negative affect on Java developers, especially those doing mainstream development. "Just about all 'mainstream' Java development (mostly server-side development written to run inside Java EE app servers) runs on Oracle JREs or other licensed JREs," he said, "so this should have absolutely no impact."

"As to how it affects Android developers, or developers using unofficial open-source JREs, I would gather that it would provide difficulties," he said, "though probably more so for Android developers, since Oracle has a specific target in Google. For open-source JRE projects, it's not clear who Oracle would go after."

Posted by John K. Waters on 05/12/2014 at 2:54 PM0 comments

Heartbleed: A Wakeup Call for Open Source Users (Updated)

I suspect that we'll remember Heartbleed as one of the few security vulnerabilities to have its own logo and URL. But we should remember it for the wake-up call it sounded for users of open-source software (OSS).

Heartbleed, as everyone who hasn't been camping in the wilderness for the past month knows, is a serious vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library. OpenSSL is popular and widely used, so the vulnerability, which the Web site states, "allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions," was a big news even outside tech media. We're talking hundreds of thousands of Web servers and products potentially affected. Security analyst Bruce Schneier characterized the seriousness of Heartbleed on his blog this way: "On a scale of one to 10, this is an 11."

The bug was reported to the OpenSSL team by security engineers at Codenomicon, a company that builds software for pre-deployment testing of business-critical products, and Neel Mehta, a researcher on the Google Security team. But it had apparently in the code since 2011. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the bug was introduced  by a German software developer and OpenSSL code contributor, who missed a bounds check in the handling of the TLS heartbeat extension that could be used to reveal up to 64k of memory to a connected client or server. (Thus the name, "Heartbleed.")

Once they knew about the vulnerability, the OpenSSL guys fixed it, fast-surprisingly fast, given the relatively small size of this particular open source community, which, according to Steve Marquess, president of the OpenSSL Software Foundation, lacks "the manpower levels needed to support such a complex and critical software product."

Writing on his blog, Marquess pointed to funding as a big part of the problem. His organization has been supporting this critical piece of software with about $2,000 a year in "outright donations," as well as some commercial support contracts and "work-for-hire" consulting. In the five years since the foundation was created, it has never taken in more than $1 million in gross annual revenues, he said.

In the week following the Heartbleed disclosures, the foundation received about 200 donations, Marquess said, "along with many messages of support and encouragement." Most of those donations were for between $5 and $10, and they amounted to about $9,000. (You can still donate.)

"Even if those donations continue to arrive at the same rate indefinitely (they won't), and even though every penny of those funds goes directly to OpenSSL team members, it is nowhere near enough to properly sustain the manpower levels needed to support such a complex and critical software product," Marquess wrote. "While OpenSSL does 'belong to the people' it is neither realistic nor appropriate to expect that a few hundred, or even a few thousand, individuals provide all the financial support. The ones who should be contributing real resources are the commercial companies and governments who use OpenSSL extensively and take it for granted."

So the arrival of a badass bug that seemed initially to repudiate the OSS mantra "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow," actually reinforced that notion, while raising some serious questions about the true responsibility of OSS users. I like the way Bruno Borges, principal product manager for Oracle Fusion Middleware in Latin America, put it on his blog. Although, he acknowledges, the developer and QA have responsibilities here, it is "The whole IT industry (companies and developers of all kind; FOSS or not) who uses OpenSSL for free but does not pay anything for it, and although being Open Source, don't look at it, don't review commits. Just expect it to work without bugs. These are the most to be blamed. (including myself)"

Jonas Falck, CEO and co-founder of Halon Security, weighed in on the subject in an e-mail: "The Open Source community has received a bad rap for the OpenSSL exposure," he wrote, "but the community has rallied together to patch the issue quickly. If anything, the Heartbleed issue has shown how reliant the Internet as a whole is on Open Source, so if corporations can give back to the Open Source community after taking advantage of OpenSSL for so long, there will be more eyeballs spotting vulnerabilities earlier in the future."

Crowdsourcing platform Bugcrowd has initiated a clever, if short-term solution to the Heartbleed problem with a Crowdtilt crowdfunding campaign to secure OpenSSL.

As cool as that campaign is (very cool), it's doesn't address the underlying problem. I thought Walker White, CTO of BDNA, which makes the Technopedia categorized repository of information on enterprise software and hardware, summed up the situation nicely during a recent conversation. (His company uses the repository to put all the hardware and software assets within an organization into a common, easily taxonomy.)

"It's the money-for-nothing syndrome," Walker said, "and it's not just OpenSSL. You have all these great products-Tomcat, Maven, Gradle, Jenkins, Git, all these development tools and frameworks. It is truly incredible what the open-source community has done. But vendors can't treat open source as something they can just plug in. We have to take responsibility for it-especially vendors who are embedding it into commercial solutions-and not just punt to the community when something goes wrong."

Shortly after I filed this story, news broke that the Linux Foundation is launching a three-year, multi-million-dollar project to fund open source projects that are "in the critical path for core computing and Internet functions-including OpenSSL. The funds for the project, called The Core Infrastructure Initiative, will be administered by the Linux Foundation and a steering group made up of backers of the project and "key open source developers and other industry stakeholders." Support will come in the form of funding for fellowships for key developers to work full-time on open source projects, security audits, computing and test infrastructure, travel, face-to-face meeting coordination, and other support, the foundation said.

"We are expanding the work we already do for the Linux kernel to other projects that may need support," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, in a statement. "Our global economy is built on top of many open source projects. Just as The Linux Foundation has funded Linus Torvalds to be able to focus 100 percent on Linux development, we will now be able to support additional developers and maintainers to work full-time supporting other essential open source projects. We are thankful for these industry leaders' commitment to ensuring the continued growth and reliability of critical open source projects such as OpenSSL."

Along with the Linux Foundation, the list of "founding backers" of this effort includes Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Dell, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp, Rackspace and VMware.

Posted by John K. Waters on 04/28/2014 at 5:02 PM0 comments

Crowdsourcing Application Development

Back in January I talked with Eric Knipp, who manages Gartner's Application Platform Strategies research team, about some of the opportunities and challenges he saw on the horizon for application developers. During that conversation, he mentioned an intriguing idea that he was exploring: That crowdsourcing could be much more useful to enterprise app dev organizations than most people currently recognize.

That exploration is complete and Knipp's conclusions and recommendations are laid out in a new Gartner white paper, aptly entitled "Use Crowdsourcing as a Force Multiplier in Application Development."

Gartner defines crowdsourcing as "the processes of sourcing a task or challenge to a broad, distributed set of contributors using the Web and social collaboration techniques." Think Netflix Prize or XPrize, or on smaller-scope piecework, Amazon or Mechanical Turk. As Knipp puts it, it is a call for a custom application solution from an external developer community, the members of which expect to earn financial or reputational awards.

The competitive aspect is somewhat similar to open source, which Knipp calls "an important ancestor" to crowdsourcing, and communities do develop around crowdsourcing environments, but the dynamic is dramatically different. Where open source attracts committers, crowdsourcing attracts competitors.

"Most of the time, when you're working on open source, it's something that you want to use personally," Knipp told me. "I'm contributing to Docker, say, because I use it and I found a bug that I want fixed, or there's a feature I want to add to make it better for me and everyone else who uses it. But on the crowdsourcing side, for the most part, this thing that you're building is for a specific purpose and the ownership of the code goes to the sponsor. You're trying to win that contest, get that prize, get invited into private contests, and maybe even get a job. These are two very different sets of motivations, even though both have a community aspect."

Applying crowdsourcing to enterprise application development is about harnessing parts of the open-source model -- the competitive spirit, the application of multiple solutions to a problem -- and folding them into a business model that helps the enterprise do meaningful work, Knipp explained.

It also opens up a new leadership role for application architects as coordinators of "the activities of cutting-edge developers in a free market for technical talent," Knipp said. This model allows app architects "to apply the cloud operating model (scalable and elastic, shared, service-based, metered and delivered using Internet technologies) to the development and delivery of custom software."

Why turn to external sources for internal innovation? Because of the pressure on app dev organizations to leverage a broader set of experience and domain expertise than they have in-house to compete in a world sent into warp-speed competition by cloud, mobile and social trends.

Small or midsize businesses (SMBs) and startups have found successes with mobile and modern Web applications through crowdsourcing, Knipp said. But he insists that larger enterprises can also take advantage of this model. One secret of the SMBs success: applying crowdsourcing to greenfield application development, rather than extending or modernizing existing systems. Also, they tend to focus on the design, coding, and testing disciplines in the software development life cycle (SDLC).

Once the decision to crowdsource is made, Knipp said, the next most important choice facing an organization is which platform to use. The crowdsourcing process is mediated by platforms that connect the sponsoring companies with the competitors, and picking the right one is critical. Currently, most of the platform providers specialize in one phase of the SDLC. DesignCrowd, crowdSpring, and 99designs, for example, focus on the design phase, while uTest, Passbrains, and BugFinders focus on validating code and cross-platform functionality. Only one provider, TopCoder, offers a soup-to-nuts crowdsourcing platform. Knipp expects that situation to change as more enterprises recognize the value of crowdsourcing.

Knipp has a lot more to say on this subject in this must-read white paper. Highly recommended.

Posted by John K. Waters on 04/17/2014 at 4:56 PM0 comments

Apache Olingo Java Library Graduates to Top-Level Project

On Tuesday, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) sent out a graduation announcement of sorts. The Apache Olingo project, which provides generic Java and JavaScript libraries designed to implement the OASIS Open Data Protocol (OData), has had a status upgrade from Incubator to Top-Level-Project (TLP).

Olingo is a standardized protocol for creating and consuming data APIs. By implementing OData, which is REST-based and uses HTTP, AtomPub and JSON, Olingo is able to use uniform resource identifiers (URIs) to connect with feed resources. The aim is to simplify the querying and sharing of data across disparate apps in the enterprise, the cloud, and on mobile devices. Using OData makes it possible for Olingo to provide a uniform way to expose full-featured data APIs.

Olingo works with browser-based used interfaces, which use it to query data on servers. But it's also used to synch data to mobile devices and exchange data among server systems. Olingo is part of the technical foundation of SAP's NetWeaver Gateway technology and other enterprise solutions.

Olingo extensions contain additional features, such as the support of Java Persistence API (JPA) or annotated bean classes. The project's documentation, wiki and tutorials highlight several examples of implementing a custom OData service, including a sample Web application built with Apache Maven that can be deployed to any Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (JEE)-compliant Web application server, such as Apache Tomcat.

Olingo joined the Apache Incubator in July 2013 with a combination of Java server libraries for OData 2.0 provided by SAP, and Java client libraries for OData 3.0 and JavaScript libraries for OData 3.0 from Microsoft's Open Technologies group (MS Open Tech). Since joining the incubator, the Olingo project has produced three releases, which resulted from the work of 20 individual contributors responsible for 495,107 lines of code and 1,102 commits.

"OData v4 recently became an OASIS standard that is increasingly opening up data for an open Web," said Eduard Koller, senior program manager at MS Open Tech, in a statement. "Apache Olingo is open source software to aid in the production of OData v4.0 clients and servers in both Java and JavaScript. The project brings together several companies and community developers and we look forward to welcoming more users and contributors to the community."

Acceptance as a TLP, which is based on a voting process within the organization, means that Olingo has won a place among such projects as the Apache HTTP Server, the Tomcat Java app server, Hadoop, the Lucene search engine and OpenOffice. Graduation, as the Foundation puts it, signifies "that the project's community and products have been well-governed under the ASF's meritocratic process and principles." Every Apache TLP has a project management committer (PMC) and a chair. An incubator project could also graduate to a subproject of an existing TLP.

The ASF's Incubator is a temporary container project that is the official gateway to mainstream Foundation activity. All potential Apache projects start in the Incubator, which gives the Foundation a chance to scrutinized them, make sure they meet the ASF's legal standards (it's a 501(c)3 non-profit organization), and help them to adopt Apache procedures.

Posted by John K. Waters on 04/09/2014 at 9:04 AM0 comments

JCache, Longest Running Java Spec, Finally Ready

News about Java Specification Requests (JSRs) don't usually make it to the front page, but the announcement that JSR-107, the spec request for a Java Temporary Caching API, better known as JCache, has earned final approval should be top-of-the-fold news -- if for no other reason than the time it took to get there.

The JCache project summary explains that the spec standardizes in-process caching of Java objects "in a way that allows an efficient implementation, and removes from the programmer the burden of implementing cache expiration, mutual exclusion, spooling, and cache consistency."

JSR-107 was the longest running spec request in the history of Java and the Java Community Process (JCP). The JSR-107 Expert Group was formed in 2001. But the spec languished for about a decade until Oracle and Terracotta teamed up and began pushing to get the spec into Java EE 7. Terracotta implemented a version of the JCache spec in Ehcache, a widely deployed open-source Java caching solution the company acquired in 2009. But JCache didn't make it into the Java EE 7 release.

"JCache provides a well thought out, standardized API and programming contract for Java caching," said Greg Luck, Hazelcast CTO and co-author of the JCache spec, in a statement. Luck left Terracotta earlier this year to join Hazelcast, which develops, distributes and supports a leading open source in-memory data grid (IMDG). The product, also called Hazelcast, is licensed under an Apache license that allows developers to include the grid in their applications. The company also provides a commercially licensed Hazelcast Enterprise edition, as well as a management and deployment console called Hazelcast Management Center.

Hazelcast is set to release a production class implementation of JCache, Luck told ADTmag in an e-mail. He plans to continue to his work on JCache, "taking up a co-maintenance lead role" in the spec. "Hazelcast plans to deeply bake in JCache, so that Hazelcast is standards based and may be used for caching without vendor lock-in," Luck said.

Hazelcast's senior solution architect Chris Engelbert also severs on the JCache expert group. Oracle's Brian Oliver and Cameron Purdy also serve as spec leads on the JSR.

Last year, Gartner predicted that in-memory computing is "racing toward mainstream adoption." The analyst firm expected the relatively small IMDG subset of the in-memory computing market (IMC) to grow fast and to reach $1 billion by 2016.

Yet Forrester Research analyst Mike Gualtieri now suggests that JCache may be arriving in an environment populated with products featuring their own in-memory database engines that may eliminate or delay the need among some companies for a caching grid. "The primary use case for in-memory caching is to speed up applications that get bogged down by slower database bottlenecks," Gualtieri said. "A hot trend among the database vendors, such as SAP Hana and Microsoft SQL Server 14, is in-memory capabilities that dramatically speed up database access. These databases aren't just using more memory for old-school indexes of record caching. They have added in-memory database engines that take advantage of the hardware characteristics of RAM. Also, distributed NoSQL databases, such as MongoDB, can perform very well and have the same distributed architecture as Hazelcast and Terracotta."

Posted by John K. Waters on 03/25/2014 at 6:20 PM0 comments

EclipseCon 2014: Java 8 Support, Flux Integrates Orion

The big news at the latest edition of EclipseCon North America, which wrapped up in San Francisco on Thursday, was Oracle's Java 8 announcements. The conference planners devoted an entire day at the show to Java 8 (George Saab's opening presentation on "Java Day" was standing room only). The Foundation itself is providing Java 8 language support as an add-on to the Eclipse IDE.

"We're pretty excited about the Java 8 language support for Eclipse Kepler (the latest version from last June's the release train)," Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich told me in an earlier interview. "The Eclipse Java development tools team has done a great job adding Java 8 support to the IDE, including a formatter, code completion, code navigation, search and indexing, a reconciler, and incremental builder support for all of Java 8. I think that the quick assist support for migrating anonymous classes to lambda expressions will be particularly popular with Java developers as they migrate their code."

During his conference keynote, Milinkovich talked about another Eclipse project that should get at least a bit of shine from the Java 8 spotlight: the Flux project. Formerly called Project Flight, Flux aims to design and implement a new architecture and infrastructure for integrating development tools across the desktop, browsers, and servers. As the project page describes it, "The goal is to provide an extremely flexible platform and infrastructure that allows new cloud-based tooling components to be built highly decoupled from each other and that bridges the gap to existing desktop IDEs at the same time."

This project is all about cloud-based developer tooling, and its initial focus is Java and JavaScript tooling implemented by re-using parts of JDT (the tool plug-ins that implement a Java IDE) and the Eclipse Orion browser-based development platform. The Orion client is written in JavaScript and runs in the browser. Other services for other languages to follow, Milinkovich said.

But accomplishing this goal also involves providing connectors to such desktop dev tools as the Eclipse IDE, IntelliJ IDEA, NetBeans, and even plain text editors. This project will be distributed under both the Eclipse Distribution License and the Eclipse Public License, and it'll be hosted on GitHub.

The Flux Project is being led by Pivotal's Martin Lippert. He leads the Spring Tool Suite at Pivotal, which made the initial Flux code contribution. Pivotal spun off from EMC's VMware in 2012.

Milinkovich said he expected Orion, which was contributed to the Eclipse open source community by IBM, to become an increasingly important dev environment. The Flux integration of the Web-based tools of Orion with the desktop tools of Eclipse will give developers "the ability to use the right tools to work on their code, wherever they are," Milinkovich said. "They can use Orion to work on code on their tablet, or in an environment where a Web-based browser is the right way to go."

Milinkovich's keynote was entitled "Eclipse: The Next 10 Years." His talk covered a bit of Eclipse history and then he pulled out his crystal ball to make a few predictions about trends that will affect developers in the future. The Flux Project underscores the growing importance of the cloud, but what topped his list is the overall ascendance of software, which, thanks to the explosion of code bases, is quickly becoming the most important element of the enterprise. An example, he pointed to the Airbus Aircraft, whose planes use four times more onboard code than they did three years ago. Next on his list: the Internet of Things (IoT), which is definitely the next big thing for developers, he said. He pointed out that the Foundation currently has 14 projects in the IoT space, with more are on the horizon.

Posted by John K. Waters on 03/21/2014 at 9:25 AM0 comments

Adopt-a-JSR and Java SE 8

The long awaited, much anticipated release of Java SE 8 is nearly upon us. March 18th is the official release date, though numerous "launches" and other events will follow. A lot of work went into this release, with contributions coming from many quarters -- including Java User Groups (JUGs) around the world who participated in the Adopt-a-JSR program.

The Java Community Process (JCP), which manages the development of standard technical specifications for Java technology, launched the program in December 2011. Adopt-a-JSR encourages individual members of the Java community -- average developers working with Java day-to-day -- to "adopt" a Java Specification Request (JSR) by following its progress, supporting its expert group, reporting back to the wider community on its progress, and evangelizing its benefits.

The program aims to get JUGs involved in the Java standards process, and through those organizations, to promote "grass roots, developer-level participation in existing and emerging Java standards," the JCP says. The idea it to generate "earlier feedback, leading to more developer-friendly APIs;" "end user/developer expert input;" and to get the developer community to do more of "the heavy lifting."

To get that level of participation, the organization turned to the London Java Community (LJC) with the idea. LJC members Martijn Verburg and Ben Evans got the ball rolling, and the JCP considers the program to be "JUG-led."

"This is one of the best things to happen to the [JCP]," JCP chair Patrick Curran told ADTmag in a recent interview. "It has added some great energy and real enthusiasm."

The initial list of JUGs participating in the Adopt-a-JSR program included SouJava in Brazil, GoJava (Brazil), Houston JUG (US), and Chennai JUG (China). That list now reportedly comprises 20 JUGs, including Belgium JUG, Campinas JUG, CEJUG, Cologne JUG, Congo JUG, Faso JUG, Guadalajara JUG, Hyderabad JUG, Indonesia JUG, Istanbul JUG, Joglo Semar JUG, Jozi JUG, LJC, Madrid JUG, MBale JUG, Morocco JUG, Peru JUG, Silicon Valley JUG, and Toronto JUG.

Participants engage with the program on three levels: Starter, Intermediate, and Advanced (details here).

The JUG members contributed to many of the signature changes coming in Java SE 8, including JSR 335 (Lambda Expressions for the Java Programming Language), and JSR 310 (the new Date and Time API). The latter effort was led by LJC members James Gough and Richard Warburton.

JUGs have long been a valuable community resource for Java professionals. These volunteer organizations create opportunities to share information and to network, in person, with other Java practitioners. Most groups have some kind of Web presence, and there are some virtual groups out there.

Oracle also sponsors an Adopt OpenJDK program, which was launched in 2012. It has the same goals as Adopt-a-JSR, but focused on the open-source Java reference implementation. The program currently has 147 participants, and is administered by the LJC's Verburg.

Of course, the final release of Java SE 8 on March 18 doesn't end the Adopt-a-JSR program. For more information on how to get involved in work already under way for Java SE 9, go here.

Posted by John K. Waters on 03/12/2014 at 12:28 PM0 comments

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